KANDY, Sri Lanka England won the second test against Sri Lanka by 57 runs on the fifth and final day at the Pallekele International Stadium to clinch its first series victory in Sri Lanka in 17 years.
The tourists, who had won the first Test in Galle by 211 runs, needed just 32 minutes Sunday to claim the second test as its spinners quickly took control.
Sri Lanka, resuming on Sunday from its overnight score of 226-7, required 75 runs to win the game but could only add 17 as Moeen Ali struck twice in an over before Jack Leach had Malinda Pushpakumara caught and bowled to seal the victory.
Sri Lanka’s chances to pull off a difficult win depended heavily on overnight batsman Niroshan Dickwella, but local hopes faded quickly as the wicketkeeper-batsman was dismissed for 35 by Ali (4-72) when Ben Stokes completed a good catch at first slip.
Two balls later captain Suranga Lakmal was bowled by Ali for no score to bring England to the brink of its first series victory in Sri Lanka since Nasser Hussain’s side recorded a come from behind 2-1 win in 2001.
Leach (5-83) completed the win when he took a return catch off Pushpakumara to claim his maiden test five wicket haul. The left-arm spinner playing his third test finished with match figures of 8- 153.
England captain Joe Root was named man of the match for his magnificent 124 that helped England to a total of 346 in its second innings, after the tourists had conceded a deficit of 46 runs in the first innings.
“I thought we were very good in the whole game really,” Root said. “At times we were under pressure and we responded really well to that. Can’t be more proud of the guys.”
“Sri Lanka played brilliantly in both innings but we stayed calm and managed to find ways to get back in the game.”
A win in the next Test will help England to reach the number two spot behind India in the ICC Rankings. “We like to improve moving forward,” said the England captain. “We want to get to the number one rank in the world at some point and we’ve got to be consistent to do that.”
The third and final Test will be played in Colombo at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground starting on Friday.
Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha regretted a few costly mistakes by his side. “I think we lost it in the first innings,” he said. “After we took nine wickets, the last wicket put on 60. The way we allowed them to make runs was disappointing.”
“In the second innings there were times where we were in the game and we let them off the hook.”
England’s fielding was outstanding and Hathurusingha admitted his team had lot of work to do to improve that discipline.
“I completely agree that fielding has been an issue for us for a long time in every format,” Hathurusingha said. “Our guys are not athletic enough or skilled enough to do that kind of fielding that we saw from England. We need to address that.”
Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal is expected to make a comeback for the final Test having missed the second game due to a groin strain.
The hosts will miss the services of off-spinner Akila Dananjaya for the third Test as he will travel to Brisbane, Australia for testing after his bowling action was reported by match officials as suspect.
The fitness of England seamer Sam Curran will also be assessed after he did not take the field in Sri Lanka’s second innings due to a side strain.